Video: Console War are Next Big Thing winners

Rob GarrattMore than 130 of the region's upcoming bands that entered a musical talent search have been whittled down to one after Console Wars were crowned this year's Next Big Thing.Rob Garratt

More than 130 of the region's upcoming bands that entered a musical talent search have been whittled down to one after Console Wars were crowned this year's Next Big Thing.

The indie-pop band won the career-boosting competition after impressing a panel of top industry judges at the contest's final round on Sunday night.

They beat off five other finalists in what was hailed as the tightest competition in its six-year history.

The quintet, formed three months ago and playing only their seventh gig, were presented with a cheque for �1,000 on stage at the UEA LCR, as well as winning a record label, recording time at Leeders Farm studio, a professional photo shoot and �500 worth of music equipment.

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Lead singer Steve Wagstaff, 22, of Cambridge Street, Norwich, said: "It was completely unexpected. Everyone in the final was completely different, and there's not really a best one. We're really glad we won, we're going to spend the money on equipment and recording. We're very serious about our music."

Console Wars beat acoustic folk duo Alloy Ark to the prize by just a single point.

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Meanwhile, Hellesdon solo artist Epichunt, who makes electronic music using nothing but Nintendo Game Boys, was in third place.

One half of Alloy Ark, Doug Broadbent, 18, from Thurston, said: "It's been really good for us, a lot of people have seen and heard us and say they liked it."

Also performing at the final were indie quartet Hair Traffic Control, singer-songwriter Sula Mae and rock quintet Kairos, all from Norwich.

The six bands went through to the final after being chosen from 12 artists that played at two semi-finals at the B2 Brickmakers venue. This last dozen was selected from 131 hopefuls who submitted their music to Future Radio.

Judge Rick Lennox, a representative for labels One Little Indian and Polydor and who signed Skunk Anansie, said: "There's been a really interesting range of bands, across the board."

For the first time the final was broadcast live on organisers Future Radio's website, with breakfast show presenter Terry Lee compere for the evening.

Station manager Tom Buckham said: "It's been an excellent competition. It was very close - one point separated the winner and runner-up and it was very tough. I think Console Wars got a bigger cheer when they went on so that was clearly something the judges noticed."

Previous winners include Ed Sheeran, who has secured a release with Island Records, and The Kabeedies, who have just released their debut album.

This year the competition, backed by the Evening News' sister paper the EDP, boasts a new principle sponsor, the Think Norfolk Partnership, which aims to get road safety messages across to young adults.

The judging panel also featured ex-Prodigy and Pitchshifter guitarist Jim Davis, Leeders Farm producer Nick Brine, freelance music PR specialist Sarah Neeve and head of local NROne Records and Evening News music columnist Kingsley Harris.

Mr Harris, who has been involved with the event for five years, said: "It was a brilliant night.

"It's the first time I've ever known there to be one point to decide the winner, there's never been such agreement between the judges before and the whole panel would have been happy with either Console Wars or Alloy Ark winning."

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